Several years ago, a car wash was built down the street from my office. I was glad to see it because the old one (which is actually closer to my office) was getting pretty run-down and seedy looking. Plus, the new one had a better selection of products in the self-wash bays or you could do the drive-thru for $5, if you wanted. Let’s call this place Bob’s Car Wash.
Two years ago, another car wash was built almost directly across the street from Bob’s. This car wash, however, only has a drive-thru… but it has vacuum cleaners for its customers at no charge. Almost immediately, they put one of those goofy inflatable things out front to get attention. It’s tall and stringy looking, bounces all around and really doesn’t do much to make me want to get my car washed there. Let’s call this place Sam’s Car Wash.
Today, I was driving to work and I noticed that Bob’s now has a stupid, bouncy inflatable thing in front of it… JUST LIKE SAM’S! I know it is just like Sam’s because I could see both of them at the same time. Who is the marketing genius who came up with this tactic?
Rather than promote the fact that Bob’s has both coin operated AND drive-thru equipment, they chose to do exactly what the competition was doing. To make it even worse, I can’t think of a much dumber way to try to promote a car wash. An inflatable red stick thing? Really? That’s the best Sam’s could come up with? And Bob’s is going to copy it? Wow.
It made me wonder, though… How many times do we do things because that’s what the competition is doing?
Isn’t the real goal of marketing to stand out from the crowd? To show potential customers why your product or service is exactly what they need? Why, then, do so many companies make their marketing collateral (print, video, websites…) look just like the competition’s?
Here’s a thought… The next time a project comes down the line and you need to come up with a catchy way to promote it, DON’T look to see what your competitor’s are doing. If all you are going to do is try to dress-up the same tired idea they have, why not look at a completely different industry and see how they promote themselves? The brain power involved in trying to use an unrelated industry’s concept to fit your product might just inspire some creativity on your part.
And THAT, my friends, is where the good ideas start.
Imagine if the owner of Bob’s said, “We need to do something to get our business back from Sam’s. Get me one of those nifty inflatable things like they have!” And Bob’s marketing person said, “Actually, I was thinking about how Big Sky Bread gives customers a free loaf of bread after 12 purchases. Why don’t we reward our customers like that?”
That makes a lot more sense than putting another ugly, red stringy thing out in front of your business, doesn’t it?